This may come out sounding harsh, but none of my friends or relatives are ever allowed to buy my kids a stuffed animal again. Ever. I don't care how cute it is. I don't care how cheap it is. I don't care what holiday it's for. I don't care what charity it benefits. I don't even care how small it is.
If it has any of two of the following factors -- a face, artificial fur, bean stuffing, polyfill stuffing, whiskers, soft paws -- and comes into my house, it's out within 24 hours. Got that?
I have just staged a covert operation in my three year old's bedroom while she was distracted by her sister's doll house. Her stuffed animal collection was just reduced by one third. Then I snuck into my seven year old's room (it required less skill to get in there unnoticed, as she is at school), and did the same to hers. I was ruthless. First to go were any animals won at carnivals. Second were any given to them at garage sales by other desperate mothers trying to clean out their toy boxes. And finally, I steeled my heart and bagged just a few more, even if they were given by a beloved relative.
I still have 86 stuffed animals in my house. (Yes, I actually counted.)
What brought on the purge? First, besides the obvious fact that I can't close my kids closets, this morning Sophia had a mild meltdown. She received a new 18-inch doll for her birthday in February, and now is having a moral dilemma over the fact that her old doll has more stuff than the new doll. If she gives some of Eva's things (bean bag chair, laptop, Mary Janes) to Emma, will Eva feel bad? And will Emma feel bad that all her stuff is hand me downs?
I suggested two solutions to Sophia's problem. 1) That Emma get all the things Eva is tired of using, just like we gave Sophia's old stuff to her baby sister. Not good enough, Mommy.
So (2) Can we imagine that they were twins separated at birth and are so glad to now be reunited that they want to share everything equally? "What are you talking about, Mommy?"
At this point, I came up with solution 3, which was to remember that neither of these dolls has a brain and doesn't care anyway, now if you will excuse me, Mommy has to go make breakfast.
Scrambling eggs, I thought, Somewhere in the world there are children working in factories making the toys I will someday buy my children in a dollar bin. And upstairs in my house, my spoiled American daughter is in tears over how to distribute the wealth between inanimate objects. Her dolls own more than most people in this world.
So, change must come to my household. It's not Sophia's fault that she lives in America and has more stuff than she can manage. It's mine. I let it in here. I bought half of it. I meant well. But I must be more discerning. I can't keep buying stuff just to buy it, or because some holiday dictates I do so. In the trash bag hidden in my trunk right now there are also half the stocking stuffers I purchased less than six months ago at the 99-cent Store. And under my bed are still more little trinkets I bought for their Easter baskets. The jump ropes and bubbles can stay; all the other stuff is going back to Michael's.
My kids will always have more than they need, and so will I. That is life in Middle Class America. But, God help me (and I mean this sincerely), I'm not going to have more stuff than I want.